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If You’re Not Watching This Reality Show, You Should Be

Be tempted by this island.

For travelers, the idea of “escapism” tends to be literal. When the going gets tough, we get going on our way to a new destination to unwind and re-center. The issue at hand, however, is that this thing we do to get away from stress—hopping on a plane and saying, “take me anywhere but here!”—isn’t much of an option anymore.

This is all to say, we’re in need of a new way to escape.

Enter—much to our surprise—USA Network. The station that was once home to your favorite quirky crime comedies like Psych and Monk has embarked on a new journey, trying their hand at reality TV, the type of programming that offers regulars like you and me the chance to live vicariously through other’s wealth, mishaps, table throwing, etc. And, while it might come as a shock to most that trash programming can exist outside of MTV, Bravo, and the world of the Kardashians, it seems that just about every channel is giving this indulgent genre a go. And USA Network managed to hit the nail on the head.

Ready to escape? Then join me as we set sail to Temptation Island.

This reality show just entered its third season, and it’s already promising to be the most enthralling (a.k.a trashy) yet. For those not fully immersed in the world of reality TV, I’ll offer a quick synopsis: Knock-off Chris Harrison invites couples trying to determine just how solid their relationship is to a beautiful island with beautiful singles to be, titularly, tempted. The couples separate, become roommates with available hotties, and then watch weekly (often heavily-manipulated) clips of what their significant other is doing on the opposite side of the island—and yes, the result is a lot of infidelities.

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While it’s easy to be like, “Oh yuck! Who wants to watch relationships fall apart?” the answer is all of us do. Have you ever been at a party where a couple openly fought and then gone home to your other half and said something along the lines of, “Thank GOD we’re perfect!” This show amplifies that feeling by 100. As you watch couples more than mingle with their new roommates, you get to look your loved one in the eyes and say, “Trust me babe, I would never!” Watching other relationships flounder in such an extreme way allows for that boost of confidence yours needed.

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And for those uncoupled and watching with friends, there’s no better example of, “this is why I’m single” than seeing taken-men openly flirt with tempters. It’s the sheer confidence and audacity of these couples that allows a one-hour episode to completely take your mind off of what’s otherwise stressing you out, be it work, a relationship, or just general pandemic anxiety. Escaping into their problems, superficial and self-inflicted, give you the chance to think that maybe you don’t have it so bad after all—or at the very least you can think “idiots!” and get lost into this world of drama they’ve created.

Escapism doesn’t have to mean physically seeing the world—though we do prefer it that way.

And while I’m personally tuned in for the relationship destruction, the show also happens to take place in Maui at the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, which has truly never seen an ugly day. And, as it’s been a year since most of us have in-real-life seen anything close to a Hawaiian island, viewing it even just through a screen feels thrilling. It’s right there in front of you—the blue waters calling your name and the excursions from the show being added to your running “what to do next vacation” list, reminding you of what’s waiting to be explored post-pandemic.

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Escapism doesn’t have to mean physically seeing the world—though we do prefer it that way. For those at home, whether by choice or situation, there are ways to get out of your mindset that don’t require physical distance and money spent. Rethink your view of reality TV as trash for the simple-minded, because what it is is an often brilliantly-produced program that offers something your big-brain shows can’t (sorry, every HBO drama). Rather than forcing us to fall deeper into our state of stupor and pandemic sadness, reality programming allows us to (in Temptation Island’s case) explore beautiful locations all while feeling better about ourselves and our loved ones–yes, by seeing the worst in others. Sometimes the best way to escape reality is to check into someone else’s—though, an all-inclusive Maui resort would also be good, too.